Fagin the Jew

Michael Eaton, Leon Litvack, Florian Schweizer

19/02/2012 1:00 pm

Charles Dickens’s Fagin is one of the most infamous Jewish characters in world literature. Cunning, manipulative and ruthless, Fagin has become synonymous with 19th Century London’s low life and organised street crime. Fagin the Jew has divided readers and critics since Dickens’ novel was first published in 1836.

The history of this character in text, on stage and on film was discussed by Dickens experts in this multi-media panel discussion. Why did Dickens delete all references to Fagin’s Jewishness in later editions of the text? How did Dickens respond to accusations of being anti-semitic? What risks have film makers taken in their approach to this eccentric villain? The bicentenary of Dickens’ birth in 2012 provided a fresh opportunity to look at one of his most iconic characters.

Michael Eaton

Professor Michael Eaton is a screenwriter, specialising in docudrama such asShipman and Who Bombed Lockerbie? His fictional works include Flowers of the Forest. He is curating the BFI’s 2012 Dickens on Film retrospective.

Leon Litvack

Leon Litvack grew up in Canada, the son of Holocaust survivors. As well as being a Dickens scholar, he is an ordained synagogue cantor, lecturer, and associate director of the Institute of Theology at the Queen’s University, Belfast.

Florian Schweizer

Dr Florian Schweizer is Director of The Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street.